By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – President Obama won last week’s election with an electoral landslide, largely because of the Latino vote. Philadelphia has a large Latino population and they’re hoping immigration reform will be a top priority.
In 2010, Philadelphia’s population increased for the first time, swelling the city’s residents to more than 1.5 million and making it the fifth largest in the nation. A substantial part of the increase included Latino immigrants.
“We’re talking about a population here over the years (not all undocumented) of a growth of about 20,000 just in South Philadelphia alone,” says Erika Almiron, executive director of Juntos, a grass-roots organization that advocates for the Latino community. “Norristown has the largest population right now outside of Philadelphia. I think they have a population of about 30 percent Latino.”
Almiron says many Latinos were happy when the President issued the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA order in August. The measure gives young undocumented immigrants a two-year reprieve from deportation, allowing access to a driver’s license and a working permit.
“It’s a good first step, but it’s not the solution for the community,” says Almiron. “We see it as very important that our young people have not just access to jobs, but security that they won’t be separated from their family.”
Almiron says the process is very specific and is for undocumented immigrants that were brought to the US before their 16th birthday, are currently age 31 or younger as of June 15th of this year, have continuously been in the country since June 2007, are currently in school or have graduated from a US high school or college and have not been convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanor. To learn more about the program, click here.
Almiron says the rules are tough for young people who must come out of the shadows and provide authorities with details of their lives, with a risk that they could be denied. To make matters worse, the whole process, with lawyer fees, could cost more than $1,000.
“It’s a very scary situation for a lot of our community,” says Almiron. “And you only get one shot. You either get it or you don’t.”
Almiron says Juntos has helped more than 400 undocumented immigrants, helping about half apply for the program. She is hoping that the approvals begin to come in soon.